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The launch of the Great Repeal Bill

The launch of the Great Repeal Bill

In her letter to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, triggering Article 50, the Prime Minister said that the Government “would bring forward legislation that will repeal the Act of Parliament – the European Communities Act 1972 – that gives effect to EU law in our country. We also intend to bring forward several other pieces of legislation that address specific issues relating to our departure from the European Union, also with a view to ensuring continuity and certainty, in particular for businesses.”

Unveiling the government’s white paper on the “great repeal bill”, the Brexit secretary David Davis told MPs that as well as transposing aspects of EU legislation into UK law, the bill would create a new power to “correct the statute book.”

The Great Repeal Bill White Paper sets out the government’s proposals for ensuring a functioning statute book once the UK has left the European Union. It aims to provide the detail about the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972, how EU law will be converted into UK law, and how corrections will be made to the statute book.

Davis said: “Once EU law has been converted into domestic law, parliament will be able to pass legislation to amend, repeal or improve any piece of EU law it chooses – as will the devolved legislatures, where they have power to do so,” he said. The bill will provide a power to correct the statute book where necessary to resolve the problems which will occur as a consequence of leaving the EU.

Davis added that the new powers would be temporary. “I can confirm this power will be time-limited. And parliament will need to be satisfied that the procedures in the bill for making and approving the secondary legislation are appropriate. Given the scale of the changes that will be necessary and the finite amount of time available to make them, there is a balance to be struck between the importance of scrutiny and correcting the statute book in time.”

All this is a very formidable task. The ‘Gazette’ quotes legal information specialist Thomson Reuters saying that a total of 52,741 laws have been introduced in the UK as a result of EU legislation since 1990. Thinktank the Institute for Government has reported that up to 15 new parliamentary bills will be required. As each Queen’s speech introduces an average of 20 new bills, this will leave very little space in the parliamentary calendar for non-Brexit related legislation.

The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, said the proposed bill gave sweeping powers to the executive to change regulations. “Sweeping, because it proposes a power to use a delegated legislation to correct and thus change primary legislation, and also devolved legislation. Sweeping because of the sheer scale of the exercise.”

There are indications of a very bumpy road ahead. Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, warned that the government will face a difficult balancing act to get the legislation right, given that it wanted to ensure UK laws were compatible with EU rules to make negotiating a trade deal easier.

The SNP’s Europe spokesman Stephen Gethins said: “It strikes me that the government has pushed the big red button marked Brexit with their fingers crossed and very little idea of what comes next.”

And BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg’s view of the Prime Minister is that “On paper her position looks as unpalatable as any prime minister’s in modern times. A negotiation against 27 other countries, some of whom want to make the UK pay. A deal of mind-bending complexity beckons. A wafer thin majority in Parliament. The Scottish government intent on pushing for a vote to break up the other union.

All this, knowing that one false move could wreak havoc on the economy or unleash demons inside her own party.”

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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